Organizations often start their compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in an Excel spreadsheet.
However, the complexity of the compliance process, constant changes, consent revokes, and multiple organizational roles involved in the process soon showed that Excel might not be the perfect solution for keeping the Records of processing activities (ROPA).
- GDPR has changed the way companies manage personal data.
- Microsoft Excel is the starting point for most of them but fails as an operational tool for compliance.
- Better solutions to help you manage GDPR processes more efficiently
EXCEL vs. GDPR software
Since GDPR came into force, most companies find themselves somewhat compliant, but not entirely. They still need help with basic GDPR requirements.
Anyone involved in the compliance will tell you it is an ongoing process. You are never 100% compliant since even the tiniest human error could lead to a potential personal data breach. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to become compliant.
In our research on GDPR compliance among DPOs from 29 companies, we found that most of them use Excel to keep their records of processing activities. However, a large majority (82%) did not consider Excel to be the best solution for managing these records.
First compliance steps and GDPR challenges
Most Privacy Professionals turned to Microsoft Excel as their first choice for keeping ROPA and monitoring GDPR processes.
However, chosen approach to compliance might be the key differentiator for your business – something your competition does not yet do in a fully transparent way.
If you are using Excel, maybe there are a few important questions to consider:
- What will happen after years of keeping ROPA in Excel?
- Can you track all the alterations to the data sets made in Excel?
- Can you apply any GDPR policies to your datasets?
- Have you considered all the risks of keeping ROPA in Excel?
Companies that keep personal data in Excel face enormous risks, like increasing vulnerability to data breaches, inaccuracies in their records, unauthorized access to data, data loss, and more.
Take a minute to ask yourself what kind of financial loss this kind of exposure represents for your company and if this is a risk you are willing to take.
Although Excel does have an important application in everyday business, primarily because of its familiarity and accessibility, it will not enhance your company’s performance to meet GDPR requirements.
In the long run, the issues will pile up, and then it is back to step one and rethinking how you monitor, supervise, administer, and orchestrate GDPR processes.
Functionalities of the GDPR software vs. Excel
A GDPR software can untangle and set straight your compliance process, and depending on the software, it can provide the following functionalities:
The GDPR Article 30 addresses your obligation to keep records of all your processing activities. Some companies, especially B2C companies, have hundreds of different processing activities and a massive amount of personal data related to these activities.
We have discussed this in more detail in our blog Records of processing activities- ROPA
However, when using Excel, there is a problem of not being able to connect ROPA to different IT systems where you store data, so there is no way to manage them or to have an overview of all processing activities.
The solution you are looking for needs to provide these actions and also track the change history so that you have a clear overview of all the changes, operations, and all processing activities in your company.
Specialized software will help you centrally manage notices and propagate them to all consent collection channels, automatically updating them across multiple marketing layers.
Excel lacks insight into the personal data lifecycle and cannot track, monitor, and respond to data subject requests and manage consents and preferences.
Data Privacy Manager gives you real-time insight into the complete personal data lifecycle from the moment of opt-in to the data removal. This creates a clear view of activities and enables you to demonstrate compliance for any data subject on any level at any point in time.
No Excel datasheet can ever track what is really going on with your GDPR activities. Software solutions like Data Privacy Manager can centrally manage notices and propagate them through all consent collection channels, so you always know where you stand before launching any marketing communication or activities.
Managing individuals’ requests about their data is still one of the most complex challenges companies deal with. You need to locate personal data you have about the individual and provide them with information without undue delay and within 30 days of receipt of the request.
Any oversight in this process provokes the highest penalties under the GDPR.
The Data Subject Request module orchestrates, manages, and automates the entire process so that the IT systems where the data is stored can execute user requests timely and accurately.
Most companies, small to big-sized, hire Third-party vendors for professional services and products. In this case, sharing personal data is unavoidable, and data controllers hold the risks.
The challenge is making sure the processing of personal data by a data processor is done responsibly and with respect to data subjects’ rights.
Data Privacy Manager helps companies to better understand the data disclosure basis for each of the data processors. It allows you to define applicable safeguards to prevent abuse or unlawful access or transfer of data, something you can’t do in Excel.
Be transparent about what you do with personal data! Make sure individuals have access to their preferences and see the list of their consents so they can opt-out if they want to but also opt-in for other consents through one interface.
Maybe your ideal scenario doesn’t involve your customers opting out. However, that is part of the process of having healthy and relevant marketing contact lists.
There is no value in having a list full of contacts who do not find your content and offer valuable and relevant. In the long run, it is a very effective practice, like the process of decanting vine. It lets your contact lists breathe and shows real data based on real numbers, not just vanity metrics.
One thing to note, 92% of customers stated that they would be more willing to trust a company with their personal information if they had control over what information is collected about them.
Keeping data in Excel will not give you information or real insight into the technical and business implication of data removal.
It gets more complicated when the data subject uses more than one active service of the company, for which, very often, the same data sets are required on the same systems.
Data Privacy Manager automatically gives instructions to a different system when data deletion needs to be executed and enables you to define data retention and data removal operationalization on different data categories.
To understand the ins and outs of data removal, download our eBook:
Excel vs. GDPR software – Conclusion
GDPR software is a specialized tool designed to help organizations manage their compliance with the GDPR, and Excel is simply not.
It lacks the specific features needed to manage complex GDPR-related tasks such as data mapping, consent management, and data subject access requests (DSAR) handling.
Furthermore, GDPR software offers better security and privacy features, ensuring that personal data is protected from unauthorized access and breaches.
It also helps organizations avoid hefty fines and reputational damage by ensuring GDPR compliance and provides records about everything you with data, and enables you to demonstrate compliance to regulatory authorities.
Overall, using GDPR software is a far more effective and efficient way to manage GDPR compliance than relying on Excel.